Bridging the cultural gaps in a culturally diverse language classroom in South East Asian contexts

Author: Ton Nu Linh Thoai (RELC Singapore)
Speaker: Ton Nu Linh Thoai
Topic: Language pedagogies
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


Population mobility is among the main causes of extensive cross-cultural contact between diverse linguistic and cultural groups. The presence of ethnic and linguistic minority children in schools is becoming an everyday phenomenon. All sectors of society are affected accordingly: industry, health, politics, business, and education. Thus, there is an increasing social demand of intercultural competence to enhance educational opportunities, effective business and social harmony.

The classroom is a mini-society (Babad, 2009), and a language classroom is even more than that – it is a highly culture-specific society. As Sercu (2005) puts it, “bringing a foreign language to the classroom means connecting learners to a world that is culturally different from their own” (p. 1).

This paper discusses the spheres of possibilities, regarding cross-cultural interaction, for English teachers in South East Asian countries, who have more than one role in the classroom: as language instructors and as socializers who help their students to develop values and social selves, their social conduct and a specific cultural level (Babad, 2009). The paper will focus on (1) teaching linguistic strategies in a multicultural language classroom, (2) multimodality in teaching in culturally diverse classroom contexts, and (3) intercultural competence development. It hopes to raise further awareness from English teachers in South East Asian countries and accompany them in bridging the cultural gaps among themselves and their students.


Babad, E. 2009. The Social psychology of the Classroom. New York: Routledge.

Sercu, L. 2005. Teaching foreign languages in an intercultural world. In Lies Sercu et al, Foreign Language Teachers and Intercultural Competence: An International Investigation (pp. 1-18). Clevendon/ Buffalo/ Toronto: Multilingual Matters.

Keywords: linguistic and cultural diversity, intercultural competence, language classroom